Global Citizenship: Examining Media Sources


This day in age, society has become overwhelmed with sources of information. From popular news channels like CNN or Fox News and popular newspapers such as The New York Times and USA to Google searches and Twitter posts, the public is constantly exposed to new information from the media. According to a study by Albert Bandura, the media is primarily used to “promote changes by informing, enabling, motivating, and guiding participants. In the socially mediated pathway, media influences participants to social networks and community settings that provide natural incentives and continued personalized guidance, for desired change” (Bandura).  Because the media can ultimately influence such social change, it’s important to make sure we, as global citizens, extract our information from reliable sources. But how do we know what sources are credible? How can we determine what information is true? How can we recognize biases in articles and news reports? All sources must be met with a critical eye. We must question everything we read or see. Nothing we read can be assumed as true. I believe that when examining information sources, the personal bias of the author must be recognized and accounted for. This kind of examination is especially crucial when investigating accounts of humanitarian aid. Inaccurate reporting about the aid industry will allow corruption and effective aid to continue.

Tony Mazzarella Filming School in Tanzania Africa









Media filming student aid work in Tanzania.

When assessing what sources are trustworthy and what sources are not, I like to pay particular attention to the expertise of the author in the field in which they are reporting about. In Linda Polman’s book War Games, she references media coverage of the Murray Town Camp for Sierra Leone amputee victims as one on many instances in which inaccurate reporting was used to increase aid fund raising.  Because this case was very popular in many countries, media sources from “CNN and the New York Times to Dutch public television and the South China Post all managed to find the Murray Town camp” (61). Not only was the situation of the amputees exaggerated by these sources, resulting in a surplus of aid goods and misuse of aid money, but “even organizations that were not there specifically to help the amputees used photos of people in Murray Town Camp in their fundraising campaigns”(61). In this way, sources that had no knowledge of how to help the amputee victims exploited their situation for personal gains. For this reason, it is important to examine the expertise of the author. Did they actually go and examine the situation in the Murray Town Camp?  Do they have a history of working in crisis areas? Are their reports detailed and accurate, or do they seem embellished and inflated? As global citizens, it is essential that we ask these kinds of questions when examining information sources.

It is also important to investigate Linda Polman as an author. Is her reporting accurate? How do we know? First of all, Polman’s expertise in the aid industry is apparent throughout her book. She has been to many crisis areas, interviewed many aid officials, and always questions the information she is told. Instead of taking facts presented in media reports as truth, Polman investigates deeper, coming to her own conclusions, which often differ from the popular opinions of media sources. Polman’s expertise in the aid industry combined with her critical eye make her book a valid source. Even so, it is important to keep Polman’s ultimate goal of exposing flaws of the aid industry in mind and realize that this personal bias comes through in her writing. If we understand that, Polmam’s book can be used as a valuable source for understanding the aid industry.

The experiences of the author are also important when examining the credibility of a source. In the book Emergency Sex, authors Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson, all recall personal experiences as aid workers for the United Nations and the Red Cross. By recalling these experiences, each author reveals their personal growth and changed opinion of the aid industry. After their time working in many crisis areas, all three authors are exposed to the corruption in aid organizations. Through personal experience, each author becomes critical of the aid industry and questions the true extent to which aid organizations help victims. At the end of the book, Cain reflects on what he has experienced and realizes that he now understands “the world is corrupt and brutal, that most countries look out only for their own interests, and people seldom rush to dangerous acts of selfless sacrifice” (294). But this does not stop Cain from wanting to help. This is why he feels compelled to write about his experiences and expose problems of the aid industry. In telling their personal experiences, all authors reveal personal flaws and shortcomings while working in the field. Their “tell-all” style of writing shows the truthfulness in their reporting. The amount of experience each author has in the aid industry is made very apparent, therefore validating the book as a reliable source. Even so, we must remember that these stories are personal accounts of the past and are likely contain bias. Instead of taking every word of every story as exact fact, it is more important to see the truth in the themes each author explains and develop a better understanding of the aid industry as a whole.

When first inspecting a media source, one must verify the expertise and experience of the author. If the author has little experience in that field or seems to be reporting for solely popular interest, the source is most likely unreliable. The author most likely used inaccurate statements to gain popularity and public interest. However, if the expertise of the author has been confirmed, then the personal bias of the author should always be investigated. What are their motives for writing? Although all reporting contains some amount of bias, some articles are more opinion based than others. If the article contains a lot of personal opinion, it is important to keep that in mind when extracting information from this source.

Overall, global citizens should examine and investigate all types of media. Thorough and expansive research means exploring beyond popular media sources.  Sources must be critically examined, with particular investigation of the author. Global citizens must make it a priority to find credible sources to truly understand the flaws of aid industry, and therefore we can move forward in finding an effective solution to ending corruption in humanitarian aid.


The following video shows how popular media sources often jump of stories of popular interest or report inaccurate findings just for the sake of public interest:




Bandura, Albert. “Social Cognitive Theory of Mass Communication.” Media Psychology 3.3 (2001): 265-99. Print.

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone. London: Ebury, 2004. Print.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.


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